From Gandhar & Purusapur to Kandahar & Peshawar

Afghanistan, lying to the North – West of India, conjures images of massive waste lands ravaged by war over the years. Soviet occupation followed by the Taliban and subsequent US occupation has left the country devasted. Taliban were particularly destructive as they even blasted the statues of Buddha at Bamiyan. However, what is unknown is that Gandhar (present day Kandahar, Afghanistan. Remember Gandhari, the famous mother of the Kauravs from Mahabharata? Thats correct. She is believed to have hailed from Gandhar) was once the epicentre of trade, commerce and spirituality and a confluence point of united India and Persia.

Rajiv Malhotra has this and this excellent pieces.

It was a province of the Persian king Darius I in the fifth century B.C.E. After conquering it in the 4th century B.C.E., Alexander encountered the vast army of the Nandas in the Punjab, and his soldiers mutinied causing him to leave India. Thereafter, Gandhara was ruled by the Maurya dynasty of India, and during the reign of the Indian emperor Ashoka (3rd century B.C.E.)  

Takshashila became an important centre of Buddhist learning, especially in Ashoka’s time. Under the Kushanas, in the late first century A.D… international trade and urbanization reached unprecedented levels in the Indus valley and Purushapara (Peshawar) became the capital of a far-flung empire and Gandhara the second home of Buddhism, producing the well-known Gandhara-Buddhist art.

Gandhara’s capital was the famous city of Takshashila. According to the Ramayana, the city was founded by Bharata, and named after his son, Taksha, its first ruler. Greek writers later shortened it to Taxila. The Mahabharata is said to have been first recited at this place.

During other times, the capital of Gandhara was Purusapura (abode of Purusha, the Hindu name for the Supreme Being), whose name was changed by Akbar to Peshawar. Near Peshawar are ruins of the largest Buddhist stupa in the subcontinent (2nd century C.E.), attesting to the enduring presence of Buddhism in the region. Purusapura is mentioned in early Sanskrit literature, in the writings of the classical historians Strabo and Arrian, and the geographer Ptolemy. Kaniska made Purusapura the capital of his Kushan empire (1st century C.E.). It was captured by the Muslims in C.E. 988

What follows is a veritable carnage, loot, genocide of the worst nature.

Mahmud converted the Ghaznavids into Islam, thus bringing Islam into the sub-continent’s local population. In the 11th century, he made Ghazni the capital of the vast empire of the Ghaznavids, Afghanistan’s first Muslim dynasty. The atrocities by Mahmud of Ghazni makes the Taliban look benign by comparison.

Will Durant explains: “The Mohammedan Conquest of India is probably the bloodiest in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within

“Each winter Mahmud descended into India, filled his treasure chest with spoils, and amused his men with full freedom to pillage and kill; each spring he returned to his capital richer than before. At Mathura (on the Jumna) he took from the temple its statues of gold encrusted with precious stones, and emptied it coffers of a vast quantity of gold, silver and jewelry; he expressed his admiration for the architecture of the great shrine, judged that its duplication would cost one hundred million dinars and the labor of two hundred years, and then ordered it to be soaked with naptha and burnt to the ground. Six years later he sacked another opulent city of northern India, Somnath, killed all its fifty thousand inhabitants, and dragged its wealth to Ghazni. In the end he became, perhaps, the richest king that history has ever known.”

This plunder and loot started by this mass murderer of Turkish descent was effectively followed by others. Its now the turn of another bad guy, Ghori.

“In 1186 the Ghuri, a Turkish tribe of Afghanistan invaded India, captured the city of Delhi destroyed its temples, confiscated its wealth, and settled down in its palaces to establish the Sultanate of Delhi ..

..Kutb-d Din Aibak, was a normal specimen of his kind — fanatical, ferocious and merciless.

..Balban, punished rebels and brigands by casting them under the feet of elephants, or removing their skins, stuffing these with straw, and hanging them from the gates of Delhi.”

…Alau-d-din (the conquerer of Chitor) had all the males — from fifteen to thirty thousand of them — slaughtered in one day.”

..Muhammad bin Tughlaq.. He killed so many Hindus that, in the words of a Moslem historian, “there was constantly in front of his royal pavilion and his Civil Court a mound of dead bodies and a heap of corpses, while the sweepers and executioners were weaned out by their work of dragging” the victims “and putting them to death in crowds.” In order to found a new capital at Daulatabad he drove every inhabitant from Delhi and left it a desert….””

The moral definitely is ,.. civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within..”  The missing link clearly is that why and how we became so utterly defenseless and helpless. In the land of Ram, Krishna, Arjun, Bheem, Chanakya its hard to believe that we were so incapable of putting up a credible defense against these marauders. Are we missing something here?   

 

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